Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – CONCORD, NC – There is a thin margin between success and an early exit during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season in Pro Stock and three-time world champion Jason Line has found the wrong side of that too often for his liking over the past three events.
After starting the season with back-to-back final round appearances, Line has suffered first-round defeats the last three races heading into this weekend’s NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. The unique challenges and spectacle of four-wide racing adds an extra layer of difficulty for Line and his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, but the veteran is ready to put this string of quick exits behind him.
“There are so many fast cars and really good race teams out here, and that means there is no room for error in any way,” Line said. “We’re planning to make some changes before we get to zMAX Dragway for this race, and we’re hoping they pay off. Time will tell, but you always try to be optimistic. We have great guys and a great group of people behind us, and I can tell you we want nothing more than to put a Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro in the winner’s circle. This weekend would be the perfect time to do that with our family and friends there supporting us.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a broadcast of the finals on Sunday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. (ET). The fan-favorite race, which provides one of the biggest spectacles in drag racing, is the sixth of 24 events in 2018, and Line, who has dipped to sixth in Pro Stock points following a first-round defeat last weekend in Houston, hopes to put on a show at zMAX Dragway in front of a huge group of family and friends.
It’s the closest race to the race team’s headquarters and Line has three career wins at zMAX Dragway, sweeping both events at the state-of-the-art track during his 2016 world championship season. This race marks another important opportunity for Line, who has 47 career victories, to get his year on track and he has always relished weekends like this one.
“We have a lot of reasons to enjoy coming to zMAX Dragway, especially because we get to have our families at the race with us,” Line said. “As a team, we’ve had some pretty cool moments at this racetrack, and the folks here are the best. This is going to be a fun race. It’s my daughter Emma’s birthday on Sunday as well, and because we live a long way from our extended family, we don’t usually have the opportunity to celebrate many birthdays together. This is something I’m really looking forward to. Overall, it should be a good weekend.”
Of course, the weekend will get better if Line grabs his first win of the season, something that won’t be easy to do in a Pro Stock class that has featured a different winner at the first five events. Line hopes to become the sixth in as many races, competing against the likes of KB Racing teammates Bo Butner, the current points leader who won in Pomona, and Greg Anderson, as well as 2018 season winners Matt Hartford, Chris McGaha, Vincent Nobile, and Tanner Gray. But Line has gotten comfortable with four-wide racing and he hopes that turns into a big result this weekend.
“Momentum is always a good thing, for sure, and we look at this next stretch of races as an opportunity to make up some ground,” Line said. “We haven’t had the best start to the season, but it certainly hasn’t been terrible, and like Greg said last week, he’s a win waiting to happen. There will be a win for Summit Racing soon with one of our Chevy Camaros, and that will give us something to build on to get that momentum going.”
Defending Top Fuel event winner Steve Torrence has two wins in 2018, and shares the points lead with Tony Schumacher. Others to watch include Houston winner Brittany Force, the defending world champion, three-time world champ Antron Brown and Pomona winner Doug Kalitta.
Ron Capps is after his first Funny Car win in 2018 against a lineup that includes J.R. Todd, who has won two straight races, points leader Jack Beckman and defending world champ Robert Hight.
LE Tonglet will look for another win at Pro Stock Motorcycle at zMAX Dragway, facing off with defending champ and Gainesville winner Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr. and Andrew Hines.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the third of 12 stops in 2018 at zMAX Dragway. Mike Castellana is the defending winner in the Pro Mod class, which made its four-wide racing debut last year. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals include Shirley Muldowney, Buddy Martin and Bobby Warren.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:00 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 27 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 28, at 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 29.